A Systematic Literature Review on Change and Leadership in Higher Education


  • Trevor McSharry ATU




Literature Review, Change, Leadership, Higher Education


This paper presents a systematic literature review that focuses on the topics of change and leadership in Higher Education, in order to synthesis existing research in this key emerging area and provide some direction for future research. A review framework and method are outlined, in order to clarify the type and source of literature to be reviewed and the focus of this review process. Then, findings are analysed and presented, and thematic areas identified and analysed. Gaps in research are then explored followed by a conclusion and recommendations. Initially, 80 relevant articles were identified from Scopus and Academic Search Complete since 2010. Through abstract review, articles, which did not adequately relate to change and leadership were removed. The final number of papers reviewed and thematically analysed in detail were 23.

This research confirms that there has been a steady output of peer-reviewed journal articles published that focused on both leadership and change in Higher Education. Through thematic analysis, several key themes emerged. These included an array of change drivers and the internal and external context associated with politics, culture and traditions and the developmental stage of the higher educational system. Staff utilisation, collaboration and development were additional themes identified that set the scene to determine effective leadership approaches and characteristics. The final theme identified was leadership recruitment and development. Many knowledge gaps from an instrumental, humanistic, critical, and philosophical perspective were identified. It is hoped that this literature review will aid further scholars in their research and develop new knowledge so that convergent views on this important topic will surface.